While most people are still scratching their heads at what they saw from Florida’s offense in the season opener against Miami (Ohio), they should be excited at the idea of how many true freshmen saw time last Saturday.
Florida led the nation by playing 15 true freshmen last week. Auburn came in second by fielding 14, and Florida State followed with 13. Of the 15 that played for the Gators, eight of them started on special teams.
Here’s a list of the young guys who suited up and played for the Gators against the Redhawks:
1. DE Ronald Powell
2. DT Sharriff Floyd
3. DT Dominique Easley
4. QB Trey Burton
5. CB Cody Riggs
6. CB Jaylen Watkins
7. S Matt Elam
8. CB Josh Shaw
9. S Jonathan Dowling
10. TE Gerald Christian
11. RB Mack Brown
12. OT Kyle Koehne
13. OT Ian Silberman
14. WR Robert Clark
15. WR Quinton Dunbar
Most played on special teams, but the group that made the biggest impact was the defensive line. Coach Urban Meyer singled out Powell and Floyd as playing the best of the freshmen. When the frosh linemen got in, there didn’t seem to be much of a drop off as far as the pass rush was concerned. Floyd led the freshmen with three tackles, while Powell and Easley recorded a tackle each.
“Early impressions are … big dudes going in there and playing hard,” Meyer said of the freshmen linemen. “They probably didn’t play great because it was the first time in that atmosphere.”
Burton was the most exciting guy to watch on the field. Signing as a quarterback, he did everything but throw the ball for the Gators Saturday. He started on kickoff, lined up in the backfield, was a wide receiver, played some tight end and was the wildcat quarterback. He ran the ball twice for 4 yards, including a 2-yard touchdown and caught one pass for 2 yards.
Meyer said Thursday that it’s rare to find someone that versatile who can play pretty much anywhere. The players he compared Burton to were Percy Harvin and Aaron Hernandez. That’s pretty impressive to say the least.
“Somehow we hit a home run with that one,” Meyer said of Burton.
Burton has also moved up to No. 2 on the quarterback depth chart ahead of fellow true freshman Tyler Murphy.
Saturday, I expect to see more contributions from the freshmen. I think Gerald Christian will actually get time at tight end this week because that is a position of need for this offense. With senior cornerback Moses Jenkins out, either Josh Shaw or Jaylen Watkins will get some decent time as the third corner. Receivers Robert Clark and Quinton Dunbar should get into more plays and now that Chris Dunkley is healthy, he might make his Gator debut as well.
I also doubt that with Florida’s offensive line relatively healthy (and not suspended) tackle Ian Silberman will have to line up at tight end this week. If the offense gets rolling, he should get reps at one of the tackle spots. Maybe even Mack Brown can get some carries at running back. The coaches have praised his strength and running style and he could be a garbage-time monster.
Of course, for the freshmen on offense to get some time, there actually has to be offensive movement (forward) this weekend against South Florida. The old cliche is that teams make their biggest improvements from game one to game two. Well, that will be imperative if the 2010 class is to continue its impressive start.